From a nature playground with slides to botany art and exhibitions, walking trails and stunning greenery, there’s plenty to see at the Singapore Botanic Gardens Gallop Extension!
An 8-hectare addition to the Botanic Gardens that sits across the Learning Forest on Tyersall Road, the Gallop Extension brings the total size of the Botanic Gardens to 82 hectares, making it the largest expansion in the Botanic Gardens’ history! Although the Gallop Extension opened in October 2019, several sights and kid-friendly spaces only opened earlier this year on 13 March 2021. The extension complements the overall Singapore Botanic Garden and the Learning Forest by strengthening the green buffer against urban development. Currently, the Gallop Extension comprises two conserved black and white colonial buildings that have been refurbished into the Botanical Art Gallery and Forest Discovery Center, the COMO Adventure Grove, Mingxin Rambler’s Ridge and the OCBC Arboretum. Here’s what to expect at each of these awesome fam-friendly spaces at the Gallop Extension!
COMO Adventure Grove Playgarden
Mingxin Foundation Rambler’s Ridge
Forest Discovery Center @ OCBC Arboretum
The Botanic Art Gallery @ 7 Gallop Road
HPL Canopy Link
New Woollerton Gate entrance to Gallop Extension & Gallop Valley
Read more: 12 Kid-friendly Hiking Trails
1. COMO Adventure Grove Playgarden
In this naturalistic playground, kiddos will be able to swing, slide and climb on structures inspired by nature – from a Weeping Fig swing to a “warty” giant Cempedak climber. Inspired by the distinctive parts of the trees found within the grounds (more than 200 in total), the COMO Adventure Grove playground is all about appealing to children’s innate desire to explore and connect with nature. Look out for lots of climbing structures and long metal slides to whizz down! Climb the steps behind the playground and you’ll reach a path that leads to the toilets and a new cafe called Bee’s Knees Petite, which is open from 8am to 9pm and serves fruit bowls, breakfast options plus pastries, sandwiches and salads.
Read all about this playground and see pictures here!
2. Mingxin Foundation Rambler’s Ridge
This cool ridge-top hiking trail bisects the Gallop Extension and showcases plants found on tropical mountains in Southeast Asia, including the critically endangered Spike Oak and Braided Chestnut. With actual rises and inclines, the ridge-top hiking trail provides a new, more challenging experience for adventure seekers and cardio junkies. When you walk into the gardens from the drop-off area, the first thing you’ll notice is a beautiful brick wall with a large forested area behind it. To the side of this wall is the ramp that leads you to the new walking trail at the Gallop Extension. As you walk up the ramp, surrounded by tall trees, a sense of calm overcomes you and you are led to the rugged entrance of the ridge. The hiking trail is 350 metres long and takes you to the new highest point in the park at 40m above sea level.
The walk-up is steep and you should look out for the many red ant colonies as you walk into the forest. Also, be mindful while walking with little kids, as the boulders placed at steps can be large, making it a precipitous, slippery descent. Along the way, you’ll see information about interesting plants like ant plants and carnivorous pitcher plants that have adapted to harsh hill environments like strong winds and poor soil quality. The trail leads you to the middle of the park and isn’t far from the OCBC Arboretum. NB: While dogs are allowed in other parts of the Gallop Extension, they are not permitted on the Rambler’s Ridge trail.
3. OCBC Arboretum
A living library of trees, the OCBC Arboretum houses more than 200 species of dipterocarps. Dipterocarps are giant trees that can grow up to 80 metres tall and are mainly found in the rainforests of Southeast Asia. These giant hardwood trees have winged seeds that are on display at the entrance foyer. As you walk around, you’ll realise how these young trees will one day grow to be giants! The Arboretum is the first high tech arboretum of its kind using (IoT) sensors to remotely monitor the trees, their growth and environmental conditions. The various informational signs help visitors learn about the diverse forest habitats. Look out for a beautiful bamboo grove and flowering plants that attract colourful butterflies and buzzing dragonflies!
4. Forest Discovery Center @ OCBC Arboretum
A short stroll down the meandering path will lead you to the Forest Discovery Centre @ OCBC Arboretum housed in a beautiful colonial black and white. This newly opened gallery space is where one can find out more about the forest ecosystem and conservation. Gallop House No. 5 (aka Atbara) is Singapore’s oldest surviving colonial-era, black-and-white bungalow and the cool confines of the bungalow showcase many interactive and immersive displays, which are suitable for both kids and adults.
You’ll have a great time looking at the videos and listening to the recordings of various birds and creatures. The Forest Conservation Gallery has on display the three forest habitats found around Singapore – freshwater swamp forests, coastal and mangrove forests, and tropical rainforests. Kids will have a lovely time looking through magnifying glasses and even a telescope that faces the tress outside to spot birds. Below the house, underneath the stilt arches, is a lowland forest understorey terrarium.
5. The Botanic Art Gallery @ 7 Gallop Road
Located on the other end of the rolling lawn at the Gallop Extension, the Botanic Art Gallery sits within a black and white house – also known as the Inverturret – that dates back to 1902. A truly magical place for botany and art enthusiasts, the gallery houses more than 2,000 botanical illustrations, all of which are part of the Singapore Botanic Gardens’ extensive collection, plus art pieces on loan from other galleries, museums and botanical institutions. With some of its earliest works dating back to 1890, the Singapore Botanic Gardens has one of the largest and best-preserved botanical art collections in Asia. Kids will enjoy the projected animation show “This is not still life”, which showcases the various stages of growth from seed to mature plants.
There’s also an interesting video projection of botanical art illustrator Waiwai Hove, which shows her process of creating a botanical painting. The Botanical Art Gallery also features more than 700 art pieces on orchid species and hybrids plus etchings of plants. For kids inspired by the art displays, there is an activity area where they can colour, draw and stencil in different parts of the plants and observe them closely. History buffs can also look forward to unique artefacts from the Botanic Gardens’ archives, such as a 16th-century book of medicinal plants (donated by the British Museum) and a set of engravings of tropical plants made in Singapore by the Japanese during World War II.
6. HPL Canopy Link (opening in 2022)
Crossing over Tyersall Avenue from the main Botanic Gardens is a new 200m long, barrier-free bridge that will connect the Babusetum at the Learning Forest with the lush forest canopy of the Gallop Extension. The HPL Canopy link has been sensitively designed to integrate with the natural landscapes – both ecologically and aesthetically – and provides both accessibility and stunning views for visitors of all abilities, who will have the unique opportunity to see native forest tree species up close (talk about a bird’s eye view!).
7. New Woollerton Gate entrance to Gallop Extension & Gallop Valley
There’s now a new way to access Gallop Extension! The Woollerton Gate entrance is a mere 10-minute walk from Farrer Road MRT station. This path leads to Gallop Valley, a picturesque spot with winding paths and a small pond feature surrounded by growing foliage that encourages mindfulness amidst nature (it provides a fun way to sneak in a mini forest bath if you ask us!).
8. Getting to the Singapore Botanic Gardens Gallop Extension
The Gallop Extension follows the operating hours of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, which is currently open from 5am to midnight daily. Access to unlit areas is restricted from 7pm to 7am.
Getting to the Gallop Extension by car: The nearest car park is at Gallop Gate and Tyersall Gate, and it’s recommended that you enter via Holland Road and Tyersall Avenue.
Getting to the Gallop Extension by MRT: It’s a 25-minute walk from Botanic Gardens MRT station. Alternatively, get off at Farrer Road MRT station and walk through Woollerton Gate, which is connected to the other attractions at Gallop Extension via Gallop Valley.
Getting to the Gallop Extension by bus: Hop on buses 7, 77, 77, 105, 106, 123, 174, 174E or NR8 if you’re entering via the Tanglin Entrance. Alternatively, take buses 48, 66, 67, 151, 153, 154, 156 and 170 if you’d like to use the Bukit Timah entrance.